Rare Richmond Birdwing Butterfly is Back to Fluttering Back from Vulnerable Species List

A RARE butterfly has nature lovers in a flutter as it makes a comeback after almost disappearing 50 years ago.

WELCOME BACK: The return of large numbers of the Richmond birdwing butterfly this summer has inspired nature lovers from across Australia.

Once a common sight in Brisbane, the Richmond birdwing butterfly is now on the vulnerable species list through clearing of rainforest and inbreeding and is a critical priority for the Environment Department.

But a recovery program, involving the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk along with environmental officers and volunteers with the Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network (RBCN), is inspiring the return across southeast Queensland of one of our largest and most beautiful butterflies.

Tamborine concreter Justin Strawbridge, 30, who has lived in the Gold Coast hinterland for two decades, recognised the butterfly as he helped build the pylons for the 300m-long canopy walk two years ago.

“They are pretty rare and I had my eye out for them,” Mr Strawbridge said. “They have a bright yellow thorax with a big red spot. The males have iridescent green and yellow wings.”

RBCN database manager Hugh Krenske, who tracks calls from members, confirms both the number of sightings and locations are on the increase.

“The Sunshine Coast is a hot spot and Tallebudgera Creek (on the Gold Coast) as well,” Mr Krenske said. “DERM is taking breeding stock and cross breeding in difficult areas.”

Once found from Grafton to Maryborough, the butterfly is returning to its regular haunts, except in Brisbane.

“We’re now seeing them in Tewantin and Noosa, in Springbrook for the first time and we’ve had butterflies reported at Redlands for the first time in many years,” Mr Krenske said. “In Brisbane we haven’t heard much (yet).”

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